This column is pretty big this week. I had a friend in high school who’d say instantly to something like this, “How big was it?!?!?!” and I would yell out, “This big!” and do a hand measurement. However, none of that has anything to do with the length of the column. Obviously just a moment of nostalgia on my part and some fodder (or filler if you want to view from the glass-half-empty perspective) for an opening paragraph of this column, which happens to be titled From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays!
We have an ultra-cool contest going on until September 1st here! We covered Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus here a few weeks back and totally dug this comic. Now Fantatgraphics and us want to give a copy away to one lucky person! Click here to get in on this contest now!
This past week we had two new editions to our extra series covering Herge’s body of work that makes up the complete The Adventures of Tintin. Check out part two; part three will go up on Saturday.
Gil Jordan: Murder By High Tide
Story and Art: M. Tillieux
Move over Tintin, Gil Jordan is here to rock! This book is a nice surprise. There’s mystery. There’s a ton of action. There’s really hip looking artwork. Put those three things together and what else do you need from a title? Gil Jordan: Murder By High Tide collects two tales of the classic comic by Tillieux, originally published in Spirou (which also published Smurfs and Sibyl-Anne), and doesn’t disappoint in any way, shape, or form.
In the first tale in the collection, “Murder By High Tide,” detective Gil Jordan and his assistants Crackerjack and Inspector Crouton investigate what appears to be a death from a case of bad luck at first. However, upon further inspection, something doesn’t add up. A mysterious stranger telling them to leave things alone. A secluded area where the road they need is buried like clockwork as the tide comes in day in and out. As one thing leads to another, not just the case but keeping their lives turns into high stakes. In the second tale, “Catch As Catch Can,” a criminal named Joe the Syringe breaks from prison, however, that’s only half the problem; not only did Joe jump down a few stories and survive, but it seems with almost super powers he was able to also jump over a 20-foot wall out of the prison. Before you know it, reports of a man hopping across rooftops like a grasshopper come in, and as an insurance agent targetted by Joe disappears, Gil and the gang are stuck right in the middle.
Both stories are solid detective tales. Each one engaging and a pleasure no matter what age you are. Even more impressive is the art. If Herge’s Tintin travels Europe running into all sorts of trouble, it’s visually a very clean Europe. Gil Jordan feels like real Europe, where not everything is pretty. There are old shipyards, dirty streets, and run down houses. Tillieux visually gives us a true detective story. Yes, it has that cartoon flare of the other comics published in Spirou during this time period, but it also has a lot of grit and dirt to it. His brush just knew the visual vocabulary to draw the action of a detective tale.
A highly recommended pick up, out on stands now.
Story and Art: Lewis Trondheim
Seems our invasion of all-ages comics from Europe has been non-stop this year, but by no means is that a bad thing. Papercutz has now brought over to us the series Monster by French artist Lewis Trondheim. Orignally titled Monstrueux, Monster tells the stories of two children, Peter and Jean, who create a pet monster named Kriss, a multi-armed, over-sized friendly monster. Monster Christmas tells the tale of when the children have to go on Christmas vacation with their parents, and Kriss decides to follow them because he doesn’t want to be left home alone. Good thing he does, because the family runs right into good old Saint Nick himself, who is being chased by a mean creepy monster! Kriss and the kids help poor Santa and the hilarity ensues.
Monster Christmas provides plenty of laughs, some of lines are of such innocently hysterical humor since the story is narrated from Peter and Jean’s P.O.V. Seeing Santa and Kriss wrestle with the mountain monster was amusing, as were the father’s reactions to everything. Trondheim has done solid work here filled with comedic timing that both children and adults can laugh-out-loud at. The design in execution of the comic echoes more of a classic strip, where it is composed of just images and narration with no word bubbles, however, the art is distinctly similar to much of the French all-ages stuff we’ve gotten over the years, giving us a nice visual blend.
Monster Christmas also has the nice factor of being a comic that works in or out of season. Yes, there is Santa and talk of Christmas, and I guarentee when the holidays hit I’ll want to read the book again, however, right now at the cusp of the Fall here it still works and is a good read.
Publisher: Image Comics
Story and Art by: Sonny Liew
Malinky Robot can be most easily described as an all-ages friendly version of a Heavy Metal story. It has this steampunk robot dream edge set in a dirty urban cityscape, like so many of those stories, but the only difference is that it has much more of a child’s heart and none of the violence or impossibly large breasted women. Malinky Robot, out this week from Image, collects all the independently published Malinky Robot stories that Sonny Liew has written over the past few years. Each one centers around the world of two kids, Atari and Oliver, and how they see their world (with the exception of one story which centers around their robot friend trying to find his way home). Everything these kids do feels a little magical, from fishing to stealing a bicycle, as in the odd world they inhabit these seemingly normal things have been forgotten and overlooked in its dis-utopian world of cars, high rises, and so forth.
Sonny Liew has done a great job with these stories. His work is wonderful to look at and is graphically detailed in its dirty yet dream-like reality, but the more impressive parts are the moments of heart he brings to his stories, and the innocence these two street kids have against the backdrop of this city. This may not be for everyone (parents, I do have to give a warning, as there are a few cuss words around in the pages), but it certainly worked for me in all its charm. Page by page I was compelled over how a simple story really became an epic tale, because these two lil’ punks were doing it in this world. The comic works so well because the entire package works so well. Hopefully, after this there will be much more to come in the future for Malinky Robot.
Yes, I know last week in our column we missed out on doing a something to watch (only our second time, though, I must say), however, this week we’re back with something to pop in your DVD player and check out!
Something To Watch: Iron Man
Back in 1994, on the air waves was The Marvel Action Hour, which featured back-to-back episodes of The Fantastic Four and Iron Man. While both series had their merits (I admit, I love The Fantastic Four series from this block), today we’ll look at Iron Man, primarily because it was so odd. I don’t mean that in a bad way (only half the show is really bad), it’s just a TV series that pretty much is two different shows when looking at season one and two. Season One might as well be He-Man and The Masters of the Universe, but not as cool in any way, shape, or form, to be honest. The episodes were not as much about Iron Man as they were about him leading the team Force Works (composed of War Machine, Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, Century, and Scarlet Witch). Every episode they go up against the Mandarin, who employs a a team of villains every time consisting of Dreadknight, Blizzard, Blacklash, Grey Gargoyle, Hypnotia, Whirl Wind, and MODOK (and occasionally would convince Fin Fang Foom to help out, which was the only cool part of this). The animation by Rainbow Animation Group is decent, the stock scene that suddenly cuts to early 3-D animation as Stark turns into Iron Man is kind of fun, the stories are forgettable, and the theme song equally as erased from my memory. To say it is the worst animated Marvel show might not be too far from the truth. The DVD with the season 1 episodes on it may make a great coaster for you to set a glass on.
But wait! Why then, Drew, are you recommending me to waste my time watching this piece of garbage from 1994 when I could be watching something that’s actually better or at least a step-above?!?!?!?!!?!? Ah yes, simple: Season 2.
In season 2 of the show, Iron Man gets a face lift. The animation gets better (not amazing, but way better) when it changes to Koko Enterprises. The theme song is compeltely changed and a little more catchy. Most importantly, the show becomes about Iron Man. The episodes and writing greatly improve, and unlike the first season have a handful of stand-out moments and many an episode that you’d actually want to re-watch. Each episode has a a moment where we see the Mandarin on a quest to get his rings back, which builds throughout the whole season into the final episodes, giving us a complete connected arc in the second season. Even for those who wonder why Force Works isn’t really around this season, they even amuse you Season 1 fans and give you explanation and back story. Simply put, you should watch 1994 Iron Man for Season 2, because that’s when it’s a good show, at last. Your something to watch this weekend is Iron Man (OK…just season 2)!
That’s it for this week! See you next! Sending you kaiju-love from a Dutch countryside!